Everyone likes taking a vacation. But would you believe me if I told you that you needed one? Not wanted, needed. Vacation can improve your health and well-being in a positive way, making it important in maintaining a happy, healthy work life.

Recently we shared an article about the need for recovery, but what if you need more than a few hours to unwind? I’m positive you’ve felt the need to take a few days off or some sort of vacation to relax and disconnect from work. Today, I want to share some research explaining the impacts of vacation. This is also an excuse to share some of my favorite personal vacation photos. Enjoy!

Vacation and Well-Being

Researchers have found that taking a vacation improves health and well-being across many studies. One early study found that taking a vacation increases life satisfaction, meaning that a vacation can make you feel better about all aspects of your life! You get an overall positive boost to your well-being from taking the time to disconnect. Other studies have found that vacation time decreases stress, exhaustion, and general health issues, like having trouble sleeping.

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I love to travel on my vacations. Here’s Kinsale, Ireland from a solo trip a few years back.

Taking time off also improves the way you feel and behave at work when you return. For example, one study found that employees felt like it took less effort to complete their work when they got back from vacation. In other words, your job may seem easier after a vacation. Another study found that time off improved employees’ work engagement. Someone has high work engagement when they have high energy on the job and get absorbed into the work. They are energized and focused. If you take time off, you might come back to work with more energy for the work and the ability to stay focused!

In sum, taking that PTO or any type of extended break from work can help you feel better and work better!

Fade Out

While the benefits of taking a vacation are meaningful, they aren’t permanent. Makes sense, right? Once you are back in your routine and in the same stressful environment for a while, you go back to how you were feeling before you ever left. Those same things that were stressing you out before are back to wreak havoc on your well-being. In the research literature, this is called fade out. Fade out is that gradual decrease in your well-being after you return from time off.

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Finding calm at this beautiful temple in Hue, Vietnam.

So how can you slow down fade out?

Detach

It is important to actually detach from your work when you are on vacation. If you are still spending a lot of time thinking about your work or, worse, actually doing some work, you aren’t getting the break that you need. Make sure you leave the work behind so you can fully recover from the stress of your work life.

Vacation Satisfaction

Making sure you enjoy your vacation is critical to seeing these benefits. Sounds obvious but it’s very easy to forget. Some of your time off may have to be spent visiting family or taking care of other important tasks but that doesn’t always count as a vacation. You need to feel like it was a positive experience. Being happy with your vacation will impact how good you feel after it.

Also, you definitely want to avoid things researchers so eloquently called “non-work hassles”. This includes things like arguing with your family or friends, worrying about how much money you are spending, or having your car run out of gas on your road trip. Basically you want to try to make the vacation as pleasant as possible. Don’t travel with someone that will stress you out and make you feel uncomfortable. Leave your 20 year old car at home for that road trip. Don’t take a trip you can’t afford!

You should be making sure your vacation time is spent in the most positive way so that you can see the benefits of your time off when you return.

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Breathing the crip, thin air atop Mauna Kea on the Big Island in Hawaii.

Use Nights and Weekends Wisely

When you get back, you should continue to take care of yourself and take time to recover. Fade out can be slowed down when you take the time to relax in the evenings and on the weekend. Don’t overschedule yourself and try to do the things that you enjoy in your free time. If you continue to take care of yourself, your well-being can stay high after your return to work.

Plan for Your Return

I wrote a whole post about how to prepare for your return from vacation and here’s why it’s important. If you return to a higher workload or more job demands (see this post for what job demands are), you will lose all of the benefits from your time off very quickly. Make sure you take the time to set yourself up for success. Preparation is key in helping you reduce the stress of returning to work and being overwhelmed by everything you have to do. You probably have a limited amount of time off. Don’t waste it by jumping right back into a stressful situation.

So…Request Time Off!

What are you waiting for? Try to figure out a way to take a vacation and improve your well-being. I doubt you needed convincing but hopefully this will motivate you to actually take the time to plan a vacation. Your vacation does not have to be a big, fancy trip. You just need an extended amount of time away from work to help you rest and decompress. if you manage people, please remember all of this when you are feeling hesitant in allowing time off for your employees. Not only will you be helping them out personally, but you will see increased engagement when they return!

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Reconnecting with my roots in my parents’ hometown of Sieradz in Poland.

Now it’s your turn. Let us know your thoughts! Do you usually feel the benefits from taking a vacation? Have you ever had problems with a manager or an employer not wanting you to take time off? How did you handle it? Also, let us know if you have any fun vacations planned!

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